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I had a case a while back where a user posted something pretty low-quality on a site I moderate. I like to give users the benefit of the doubt, so I commented on his/her post and gave some advice on how s/he could improve it. I wanted to give him a good welcome to the site.

I then found out, after some digging, that he had just finished up a month-long suspension elsewhere, and had been chat-banned in the past. He had also posted some really poor quality content on another site, where mods had not suspended him but had given him a warning.

This would have been nice to know before I interacted with the user, because I would have expected what happened next: He lashed out at me.


This is just one case where it would be great to know about suspensions or annotations to a user's profile on other sites. It would allow moderators to quickly see whether or not a user has committed infractions before and is therefore likely to do so again.

Preferably, this would show up in the Annotations section of the mod dashboard of the user's profile, where the per-site annotations would be.

Proposed changes I like:

A modification of this idea, as suggested by Undo, would be to allow moderators to choose whether or not a given annotation will enter this "global annotations" information box.

Monica's idea that seeing annotations about yourself could cause problems is a good point. One solution might be to let the folks who originally added the annotations remove them, in the case that someone is elected a moderator. Another solution is PolyGeo's idea, to have these global annotations eventually become local annotations. This also has the benefit of not shaming people for eternity. After all, people can change.

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    I'd prefer that moderators have a checkbox when creating an annotation for whether it should be per-site or network. Some things I don't want to share with moderators across the network. – Undo - Reinstate Monica Dec 6 '15 at 23:08
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    With Undo's modification, yes. In addition to the fact that some things are really only relevant locally, a fair number of annotations (on my sites, anyway) consist of links to deleted content, which mods on other sites wouldn't be able to see anyway. I'd rather not offer something they won't be able to use. Further, there is the delicate issue of people who are moderators on other sites; should people be able to see their own annotations from other sites? – Monica Cellio Dec 6 '15 at 23:18
  • @MonicaCellio That would be an issue. One possible solution would be to simply assume that that scenario wouldn't come up in the first place - in other words, there would only be a few cases where mods have done something egregious enough to warrant annotations. But that be a delicate problem. – HDE 226868 Dec 6 '15 at 23:25
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    @HDE226868 I've had to annotate on one site people who are moderators on another site. I hope it's rare, but it's not zero. Somebody can be perfectly reasonable on one site and get wound up on a site where his hot-button issues come up, y'know? We have sites for religion and politics, among others. – Monica Cellio Dec 6 '15 at 23:33
  • When accounting for the modification suggested by Undo and MonicaCellio, I think the default would need to be "local annotation" so that the annotater would need to make a conscious decision to make it readable from all sites. – PolyGeo Dec 6 '15 at 23:33
  • @MonicaCellio Good example. – HDE 226868 Dec 6 '15 at 23:34
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    In line with @MonicaCellio's last comment, some future moderators can make a bad start on SE by not understanding how it works before making their first posts. Maybe "global annotations" also need to time out and go back to being just "local annotations" perhaps after 2 years. – PolyGeo Dec 6 '15 at 23:36
  • @PolyGeo I don't think the comment about moderators is too large of a concern - none of the voters except mods and SE staff would be able to see these annotations anyway. And, well, does it really matter if someone's annotated and doesn't know about it? If it's a valid annotation, the new moderator shouldn't really be offended by it. – jimsug Dec 6 '15 at 23:52
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    How would you handled things differently on your site if you had known of the user's behaviour in the other site? – yannis Dec 7 '15 at 10:54
  • @Yannis I most likely would have deleted the post right away, given that as evidenced from his previous actions, he clearly was not interested in producing anything constructive. – HDE 226868 Dec 7 '15 at 21:55
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    "he clearly was not interested in producing anything constructive" You don't know that, at least not for your site. – yannis Dec 8 '15 at 8:24
  • @Yannis I can assure you that given both the content of the post in question and his actions on other sites, the odds were pretty good. While of course it's impossible to know, I was extremely confident in that assessment. – HDE 226868 Dec 8 '15 at 16:28
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To flesh out some things that have come up in comments...

I agree that we should give moderators the ability to add a network-wide annotation to a user. I would not want to see all annotations automatically be made network-wide, though; some annotations require local context or are only meaningful with access to private chat rooms or deleted comments. Mods on other sites won't be able to use any of that; let's not clutter up their view with things they can't see.

So let's add a check-box (or similar) to the annotations dialogue, defaulting to "no", for "add to network annotations". (Or split "annotate" into "annotate on this site" and "annotate globally", if that's easier or better UX.) The guidance to moderators would be to use this option when, otherwise, you would have left a note in the Teacher's Lounge. (That's what sometimes happens now, and it's not reliable because of volume.)

There is also the question of whether moderators should be able to see annotations on their own accounts from other sites. That could be, err, dramatic. On the other hand, they can see their own chat annotations, so maybe it's not an issue. I'd want a decision about this to be informed by CMs' experiences with cross-site issues.

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    Why would seeing annotations from other sites be dramatic? I expect a certain level of maturity from moderators. If it's a valid annotation, then they should have either ceased the behaviour that led to it, or take that annotation as feedback and adjust their behaviour accordingly. If it's not a valid annotation, then that's an issue that ought to be raised. A moderator that can't handle feedback on their own behaviour may not be the best candidate. – jimsug Dec 7 '15 at 0:06
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    @jimsug ideally that's the case, but I have seen valid annotations on moderators (on other sites) who I strongly believe would have flipped out if they'd known. Sometimes people change over time, and sometimes communities choose a moderator who turns out not to be so mature after all. All that said, I'm not firmly saying no; I'm saying it should be thought about before automatically saying yes. I'd expect CMs to have useful things to say based on their experience. – Monica Cellio Dec 7 '15 at 1:21
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In most cases, the behaviour of users on other sites is irrelevant. Suspensions and annotations are intentionally kept rather quiet, to give users a chance to change their behaviour without having a permanent black mark against them. So I don't think making all annotations network-wide would be a good idea.

But there is another kind of user that doesn't learn from their mistakes and commits the same problematic behaviour on many different SE sites. I think it makes sense to treat those differently than a user without a history of problematic behaviour. If I know that a user has resorted to personal insults at half a dozen SE sites, and shown no sign of adjusting their behaviour, I do treat them differrently as a moderator. There isn't much use to the typical escalating actions, I can skip the first steps and simply stop the user from disrupting the site immediately with a longer suspension.

I would like to have annotations for this kind of user available network-wide. To restrict this to users that are likely to cause problems on other sites I'd limit the global visibility to users that have been suspended on at least two SE sites. I think this should catch most users where the annotations would be useful, but it still would limit the number of affected users drastically.

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